Snapper project taken too long - minister

JASON KRUPP AND KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 11:44 21/08/2012

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Snapper was given time to become compatible with other Auckland transport systems and there should be no further extensions, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

Auckland Transport is denying speculation that Snapper has been dumped from a project to unite the city's public transport infrastructure under a single electronic billing system.

Several media reports this morning claimed the transport authority's board met yesterday to drop the firm and rescue the $98 million Hop project after the Snapper technology used by NZ Bus, the city's biggest bus operator, proved incompatible with the overall billing system.

Snapper Services, the sister company of NZ Bus, was given the opportunity for its cards to become compatible with those of Thales, the French company which won the contract to provide an integrated ticketing system for Auckland transport.

An announcement was expected soon.

"That seemed reasonable at the time but it's taken far too long and I don't think we'll be wanting to see deadlines extended any further," Brownlee said.

"Electronics are electronics, computer programmes are computer programmes, so I assume that all the right commitments were made."

The Government just wanted commuters on the city's ferries, busses and trains to be able to use an integrated ticketing system.

"What I want to see is us getting to a point where the integrated ticket works."

He said the matter had been an annoying side issue and the company's commercial imperatives were stopping the integrated system being implemented.

Former transport minister Steven Joyce said the aim was to have different cards working at the front of the system.

"That was the reasoning behind making sure we could have some cards involved from different suppliers at the time."

Sharon Hunter, a spokesperson for Auckland Transport, said it was still working with Snapper on the project.

But she did admit there was "still some discussion" around whether the project will meet its scheduled November 30 launch date.

The Auckland Integrated Fare System - one of the largest IT initiatives in Australasia at the moment - aims to create a single billing platform across the Auckland's ferries, trains and buses.

Snapper and Auckland Transport made headlines in June after problems with an interim system put in place on NZ Bus' component of the project surfaced, which resulted in the regional transport agency alleging various breaches of the participation agreement and filing a claim for damages.

The interim system was set up as a field trial, with the aim to ultimately incorporate it with those used by other bus, rail and ferry operators. It's understood the rail and ferry components are complete.

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Snapper, which is owned by listed infrastructure investor Infratil, said the claims were unfounded, and any compatibility issues likely rested with Parkeon, a company that provides similar services across the other Auckland bus companies.

Some of the technical issues reported at the time included some NZ Bus customers being charged penalty fees after card reader failures prevented them from tagging off.

Neither Snapper nor Infratil were available for immediate comment.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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